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Headdress Canyon, AZ

no permit
172 11 0
Guide 11 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Superstitions NW
3.8 of 5 by 4
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Loop 1.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,837 feet
Elevation Gain 520 feet
Accumulated Gain 523 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.42
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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13  2017-10-17 Steph_and_Blake
9  2016-02-21 outdoor_lover
13  2014-01-05 Lucyan
47  2013-03-09 azmike
26  2013-02-18 azmike
20  2012-03-19
Geronimo Canyon
44  2011-12-23
Geronimo Canyon
Author azmike
author avatar Guides 4
Routes 20
Photos 544
Trips 22 map ( 173 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location San Diego, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Feb, Mar → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:10am - 6:29pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
A short but fun canyon
by azmike

A class 3BII technical canyon loop hike in the Superstition Wilderness near Tortilla Flat with 3 rappels, the longest being 70 feet down a chute into a very cool alcove.

Headdress is a technical canyon requiring rappelling, stemming and down climbing skills. Required gear includes climbing helmet, harness, carabiners, descender, ropes, webbing, rap rings, gloves, canyoneering shoes with good traction, and a wet suit in the winter if water levels are high. This canyon can be done with a 100 foot rope and a 100 foot pull cord (one 200 foot rope would work, as well), 30 feet of webbing and 3 rap rings.

After a rainstorm, Headdress can quickly become a class 3CII canyon with the final rappel done over a 70 foot waterfall. Flash flooding is a possibility following the rains so canyoneers must monitor the weather and exercise caution before dropping into this canyon. Although this canyon is short, there is one down climb immediately following the final rappel that may require packs to be passed down. Those not comfortable with this short down climb may want to rig a hand-line. This canyon can also be slippery especially after a rain so high traction canyoneering shoes are recommended.

The Approach
From the overflow parking lot on the east side of the town of Tortilla Flat, hike west up the road past Tortilla Flat, 0.45 miles. The approach starts on the south side of the road near a chain link fence structure just before the road bends sharply to the right. A small white forest service sign about 10-15 feet from the road on the south side marks the start of the hike at (33.52595, -111.39581). Head southeast up a faint use trail to the top of the first hill. Turn right and hike a ridge southwest about an eighth of a mile before dropping down and heading due south for about a third of a mile. This stretch will have you dropping into a small drainage and climbing back up. Once at the top of the next ridge, you will circle around to the right of a very large rock formation that stands above Headdress Canyon to the east. Once you circle around to the west of this rock formation, you will see a large valley or drainage below which becomes Headdress Canyon. Drop into the canyon at (33.51964, -111.39636) and hike down canyon to the first rappel at (33.51979, -111.39437).

First Rappel
The first rappel is 36 ft. from a chock stone on RDC. This drop is into a pool of water and requires about a 10-15 ft swim to get across.

Second Rappel
The second rappel is an optional 15 ft. rappel from a pinch point on a large boulder. This rappel can be bypassed by down climbing LDC.

Third Rappel
The third and final rappel is 70 ft. down a chute into an alcove. In low water level conditions, this rappel starts under a large boulder in the center of the canyon, which requires down climbing a few feet through a rabbit's hole under the large boulder. There is enough room for a few people under the boulder. You'll need to pass your packs down to get through the opening. It is a very easy down climb to get underneath the boulder. Once underneath the boulder, you will look up and see the anchor on a pinch-point to the right. The rappel starts down canyon from underneath boulder. In higher water level conditions, you may not be able to rappel from underneath the boulder. In this case, you will swing the anchor topside and rappel over the top. This is a waterfall rappel in high water level conditions.

The Exit
Once the third rappel has been completed, you can gear-down and grab a bite to eat while enjoying the well-shaded alcove. Immediately following the final rappel there is a down climb on RDC past a large boulder. This is a tricky down climb that most will want to pass down packs. I found it easiest to slide down with my back down-canyon, catching a foothold and climbing along the canyon wall several feet before down climbing to the floor of the canyon. Some may want to rig a hand-line if they are uncomfortable with this 10-12 ft down climb. From here the canyon opens up and it is 15-20 minute hike down the creek bed to Apache Trail Rd. In season, you will most likely find pools of water down canyon that you may be able to hike around. Once you reach the road, turn right and it is a 0.2 mile hike back to the Tortilla Flat overflow parking lot and your car.

Water Sources
In season, there are plenty of pools of water in this canyon.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2013-02-18 azmike
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Headdress Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Nice Day in the Supes with Friends...Kinda took a more Scenic Route due to some Route Finding Issues, but we finally dropped in...I Struggled a bit. Still trying to come back from the Ribs and then I was down with a Nasty Bug of some Kind at the Beginning of the Week...Good to get out somewhere besides the Gym, need to hit the Trails more....Even though I knew there would be a Swim and it's February, with the Weather Forecast, I elected to not take a Wetsuit...Good Choice after our slightly more Scenic Approach...Water felt great! :D

    Wildflowers are starting to come on, on the Apache Trail, especially near Canyon Lake...Brittlebush is really just starting, but the Lupine is going pretty good on the Roadsides. Fairy Duster is showing up and there's a few Poppies about too. Globe Mallow is starting to really make a Showing in Spots....
    Headdress Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Thunderstorms had moved into Phoenix Thursday night and it rained all day Friday and into early Saturday morning. As we drove to Tortilla Flat early Saturday morning, we could see the snow capped peaks of Four Peaks. We knew that Headdress would be full of water and it was likely that all three rappels would be waterfalls. We were right.

    Seven of us parked at the overflow parking lot just east of Tortilla Flat at about 8:30 AM. We hiked west up the paved road about a quarter mile until we came up on the chain link fence on the side of the road. At this point, we started climbing south up the hill to the first small ridge. There's a use trail that starts at a small white National forest sign and it ends at the top of this small ridge. We started southwest along the ridge and then dropped into the drainage. We cross the drainage and continued climbing due south. A few groups I know of started climbing up towards the peak to the southwest. You do not need to climb up and to the west. The canyon begins due south of where you started on the use trail. The climb is only 500 ft.

    Once we crossed this first major drainage, we continue south careful not to drop in too early. We made sure we circled around to the west of a large rock formation on our left (formation is a couple hundred feet high). We dropped in at this point.

    The first rappel was 30 ft and it was a waterfall due to the recent rains. We put on our wet suits and rappelled into the water below. It was a swimmer. The second rappel is 15 ft down a waterfall and it was a swimmer, as well. We could have bypassed this rappel on LDC, but why. It's a waterfall rappel. The third and final rappel is right on top of the second rappel. It was also a raging waterfall however we were still able to climb down under the boulder to reach the start of the rappel. The alcove below was full of water, but you didn't need to rappel into the water. We rappelled to the ledge above it and down climbed. When we were there three weeks earlier, the alcove was dry.

    Once we finished the last rappel we spent the next 25 minutes rock hopping down the creek to the road. There were a number of pools of water as we worked our way down the creek.

    We finished in about 2 hrs 45 min. It was a great day to be in the Supes.
    Headdress Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Quick loop with a nonstandard approach - nearly hit the Labarge saddle. Bypassed the first rappel, then climbed around the optional 2nd rap. The 3rd rap (only one we did) is nice, Joe described it as a "hidden gem" and he is right!

    For those geologists, there are some really cool hoodoos like you typically find up around the AZ-Utah border hiding in this corner of the Supes. Awesome! Managed to stay dry, but many will want wetsuits when this is flowing.
    Headdress Canyon
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    My buddy Clint recently descended this sweet canyon and shared the beta naming it Headdress Canyon. The approach was still a work in progress so we opted to try a lower approach and thankfully it worked. :D Such funky & colorful volcanic rock and scenic views along the way! The canyon was still flowing lightly and the first 20ft rappel was into a super chilly swimmer. :o Some down climbs later and we found a nice sunny spot to warm back up. 8) There was an optional 20ft waterfall rappel into another pool but we opted for the easy bypass. Just below that was a box canyon with a 60ft rappel from below a suspended rock pile. The box canyon was pretty sweet & tall though some tricky down climbs was all it took to exit it. The rest of the canyon was mucho bushwhacking, down climbing, and rock hopping but it was scenic & sunny so it was enjoyable & pleasant. :sweat:

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Phoenix, take US-60 E towards Globe. Take exit 196 for AZ-88 E/Idaho Rd and turn left onto S Idaho Rd. At 2.3 miles make a slight right onto AZ-88 E/N Apache Trail Rd and follow this road 16.6 miles to the town of Tortilla Flats. Park on the east side of the town in the overflow parking lot. Walk back up the road (west) past Tortilla Flat where you will see a chain-linked fenced structure near the road (about 0.45 miles). This is the start of the hike up the hillside to the south. A small white forest service sign about 10-15 feet from the road marks the start of a faint use trail that takes you to the top of the first hill.
    page created by azmike on Feb 17 2013 11:56 pm
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